From Iowa to New York, from France to Norway, Chinese students and professors alike have tapped into computers to share transcripts of telephone conversations with relatives in China, rage over atrocities witnessed on television, mourn acquaintances slain and, in one case, to start in motion a proposal to award the student demonstrators the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thousands of subscribers, mostly Chinese college students and professors, are linking up to the networks through large, institutional computers on university campuses with the capacity to hook up to the three main organizations that distribute the messages.
Since the student uprising in China, use of the networks has skyrocketed. Liu Yadong, a student at the University of Maryland and a subscriber, said the number of messages posted has grown from about 20 a day to close to 300.
The entries, which are written in sometimes imperfect English, can be moving, melancholy, angry, ironic.
One comes from a Chinese student at Caltech, who came across an unofficial list of students killed in Beijing while he was reading his messages recently on the network's "bulletin board." Among those listed: "Zhong Qing, male, Qinghua University, Wounded in chest. Dead on arrival to Fuxing Hospital. Death time 1:30 a.m."
At first, the author didn't recognize the name. Then it came to him.
"I had a small dispute with him the first time I met him due to different opinions," he typed into the computer. "None of us hated each other after the dispute. He might have fallen down on the Avenue of Eternal Peace. He is gone. Probably he is lucky. He may now be in the Heaven of Eternal Peace."
The student had been moved by his recollection of the acquaintance and titled his impromptu computer essay, "Mourning Zhong Qing."
"No more care. No more worry. . . . He left his parents, friends, sorrow and pain. He will long live in their hearts," he wrote.
The networks have become a speedy, economical channel for Chinese students all over the world--except in China--to communicate with each other. Access to the networks, now the unofficial news service of supporters of the students in China, is free to anyone who wishes to subscribe.
Disseminating the information are three groups of Chinese students in the United States who send along information about small demonstrations in the United States, protest letters and transcripts of phone calls, news stories and the outpourings of grief and rallying slogans.
The three major networks are Soc.Culture.China, based at Yale University; Electronic Newsletter for Chinese Students, widely known as ENCS; and China-net, which started at Stanford University recently in response to the uprising.
ENCS and China-net edit the messages, essays and commentaries that they receive, distributing mostly articles and announcements.
Soc.Culture.China, on the other hand, serves as an open forum. It does not edit submissions or messages, and accepts anything that its subscribers send. With 9,000 members worldwide, it is the most popular of the networks.
The messages, which are often filled with spelling and factual errors, range from the serious to the ridiculous.
"If you put something out, everyone can read it," said Sun Yun, a Caltech student, as he scrolled through dozens of articles on a terminal in a school computer lab. "In the TV and newspapers you usually don't hear from ordinary people. But here, everyone is reacting. You can just feel some people's anger."
The feelings of writers blare out from computer screens with an intensity that resembles the chanting in Tian An Men Square.